Mustafa Akyol gave a testimony to the Kansas State Education Board during the hearings on proposed changes to the State’s science standards, which was held in Topeka, Kansas, on May 5-7, 2005.
His testimony pointed to the importance of an objective and unbiased education from a Muslim point of view. It is materialism, Akyol says, that put distrust among Muslim towards the Western culture and getting rid of materialist indoctrination in the education system will be an important step in reconciliating the gap between the West and the East.
The hearings in question, with its background, is explained as below by the Kansas State Education Board website:
On December 10, 2004, a group of eight scientists and educators serving on the Kansas Science Writing Committee delivered to the Kansas State Board of Education proposed revisions to Kansas Science Standards. The proposals seek objectivity in origins science. The scientists and educators are members of a 25 member science writing committee appointed in May 2004 by the Kansas State Board of Education.
On March 9, 2005, the Writing Committee issued Draft 2 of the Science Standards. In response, the group of eight reissued their proposals so that they would be responsive to Draft 2. Their proposals have come to be known as the “Minority Report (Draft 2).”
A Committee of the State board held hearings on May 5, 6, 7 and 12, 2005 to provide for an in-depth examination of the Minority Report and its proposed changes… 23 experts (19 with doctoral degrees)… testified during the hearings. The 23 witnesses include five biologists/molecular biologists, four biochemists, three chemists, a geneticist, a physicist, three philosophers of science, a philosopher of religion and education, three biology teachers, a lawyer and a muslim science writer.
That Muslim science writer was Mustafa Akyol.
The transcript of Akyol’s testimony is available at Kansas State Education Board website .
Down below is the written testimony that Akyol presented to the Science Education Board.
Testimony to the Kansas State Board of Education
By Mustafa Akyol — May 7, 2005
First, I want to thank the state of Kansas for kindly inviting me to give this testimony, which I hope will be a contribution to the important discussion on the education standards.
I am coming from more than 6000 miles away—from Istanbul, Turkey. One might wonder why a debate on the education standards of the state of Kansas matters to a stranger like me in the first place. Well, it matters to me a lot because what we are discussing here is such an important issue that its implications will go beyond the state of Kansas and even beyond the United States.
Let me explain why and how.
I am here to support the Minority Report proposals which are designed to eliminate state sponsored NATURALISM and insert objectivity into origins science. Actually, I have spent a considerable part of the past seven years of my life defending this position. I have lectured in more than 20 universities in Turkey, in at least 10 others in the UK, written many articles and appeared on several TV and radio programs regarding this topic. Why have I been doing this? Because I have the conviction that an objective approach to origins science that will teach the scientific controversy about origins is the most scientifically and rationally sound way to explore origins. I also know well that Darwinism has many scientific shortcomings and thus fails to be a good comprehensive explanation.
I have a particular interest in intelligent design theory and have worked closely with Muslim ID organizations. I agree with the Minority that this scientific disagreement with Darwin’ claim of no design should not be prohibited. Although I would like to see Kansas develop curriculum for it eventually, I can understand the reasons given for not inserting it in the standards due to your lack of curriculum materials that would support it.
However, the details of the scientific evidence for design and against the Darwinian claim of no design via evolution theory have been explained thoroughly by prominent scientists, some of whom we had the chance to hear from today and in the past two days. Therefore, I won’t speak about any scientific issues here. What I want to tell you is the cultural implications of this whole debate, whose importance can’t be overemphasized.
Most Darwinists don’t choose to counter criticisms of evolutionary theory on a scientific basis. They instead prefer to make accusations about the motives of the critics and ID theorists. The basic motive they allude to is theism, or, in other words, a belief in a God.
But why should this be an objection at all? Most Darwinists have the opposite motive, which are non-theistic worldviews like secular humanism and atheism, which are all driven by the philosophy of Naturalism, also called materialism. And this is all fine; people on both sides of the debate might have motives derived from their philosophical convictions. The problem starts when they seek to impose those beliefs on the institutions of science and government so that their non-theistic worldviews will become the official state ideology. I think this is the current situation in American biology textbooks. Materialism has dominated them and does not allow other views to have a fair share, although it clearly lacks full scientific support.
Now, here comes the crucial point: Since design and Darwinism’ no design resonate with different philosophical worldviews, namely theism and materialism, the categorical exclusion of one of these theories from textbooks hurts and alienates its adherents. In the current situation, the ones who feel deprived and alienated are theists, including Muslims.
There are thousands of Muslims living in the state of Kansas. A few of them are with us today, to represent their communities. And there are millions of Muslims living in the United States. Virtually all of them would prefer to send their children to schools without a bias toward naturalistic indoctrination. A school system that gives a fair share to criticisms of that materialist worldview would be much more appealing to them.
Please understand, although many Muslim theocracies might replace materialism entirely with theism, that is not what I advocate. We believe that in the science of origins, materialism should be replaced with objectivity — the very essence of science. This will not only produce good science, but it will yield religious neutrality.
I assure you that the decision rendered here about education standards will have worldwide implications. The outcome of this discussion will be on the news all over the Muslim world, and from these news reports, people there will derive a sense of who Americans are and how they think. And Muslims would like to see a fair America. Not one dominated and driven by materialism.
Let me tell you a very personal story about this. When I was a primary school kid, I loved watching documentaries about nature on the Turkish TV. These were actually American or European films with Turkish voice-overs. One day my grandfather, who was a very pious Muslim, gave me a warning. “Watch these films, they are good,” he said, “but be careful; they always talk about the wonders of nature, but they never mention the Creator of those wonders.” I asked him why. “Because,” he said, “most Westerners don’t believe in God or they don’t like to hear about Him because they are too arrogant.”
Today I know that my dear grandfather’s comment was a half-truth. I know that not all Westerners are as he described. But some of them really are. And those are the ones who have tended to dominate Western science and culture in recent decades. They have shaped the cultural export of the West into the East. This is one of the major sources of the widespread distrust of the West among pious Muslims all over the world. Muslims think that the West is a completely materialistic civilization that has turned its back on God. They are afraid that their children will be poisoned by the same ideas if they go to modern schools or follow the Western media.
Since America is the leading country within the whole of Western civilization, it attracts much of this distaste. Unfortunately, that is one of the factors that create a breeding ground for radical Islam.
Let me be clear: I don’t mean that Intelligent Design should be put into textbooks in order to win the hearts and minds of Muslims. What I mean is that the materialist bias should be put aside in order to give students a fair and scientifically sound understanding of origins. Of course this will be good for science education in the first place. But it will have other positive implications, including helping Muslims embrace modern education — and modernity itself.
As I have said, my grandfather didn’t have much sympathy for Americans. However, if he were here today listening to the testimonies of the many scientists that argue for objectivity — of course with a Turkish translation — I bet he would change his mind.
Nevertheless, there are presently millions of grandfathers, and fathers, and mothers of course, out there in the Muslim world. Some of them are in Kansas. Some of them are in Turkey. Some of them are in the Arab world.
Let them see that America is fair.
Let them see that America is not a “nation under materialism.”
Let them see that your science is a search for truth, not a tool of materialistic indoctrination.
I assure you, this will have far reaching implications— all for the positive.